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Crown, Politics, & etc.

     Good Gentles:
     Following is the first half of a treatise written by Ioseph of 
     Locksley which, although written in 1989 or so, I find to be just as 
     pertinent today, times having changed so little in this regard.
     Herewith is a message that I wrote on a local BBS in answer to a small 
     question from a member of the Dark Horde. I have elaborated it to some 
     degree, as it may be educational for our membership. It has been 
     further expanded from the initial writing, for the purposes of this 
     article. Some of the content applies pretty much exclusively to the 
     Kingdom of Atenveldt, but the balance of the article should apply 
     universally in the SCA. 
     Perhaps a little more elaboration on the subject is in order: *sigh* 
     No "voting" per se, but it IS the right of the Peerage to advise the 
     Crown concerning those Peerages, or matters that affect those 
     Peerages, as it is the right of the landed Barons/esses to do the same 
     relative to matters which affect their Baronies, as it is the Dukes on 
     any matter they damn well please....BTW: the original purpose of the 
     title of "Court" Baron and Baroness was to give a qualified and 
     valuble person acess to the Curia Regis/Princeps who otherwise didn't 
     have the rank or position to get into such a thing. This Curia has 
     fallen into disuse of late, and perhaps should be 
     revived...........this gives us a nice system of checks and balances, 
     and prevents an absolute incompetent from destroying the Game for all 
     of us. Bear in mind, also, that the SCA is set up, essentially, as a 
     Constitutional Monarchy, with Corpora/By-Laws being the Constitution. 
     A King, or Queen CANNOT violate Corpora/By-Laws with impunity.....but 
     violation of Custom tends to be more expensive in the long run, 
     because it loses people's respect, and thus erodes the violator's 
     actual governing power.....read over the Oath taken by the King at his 
     Coronation.....and, also, the Seneshal can wind up having the last 
     word in that department, as can the Herald in his/hers, as can the 
     Marshall in his/hers, and so forth. Tyrants tend to find out that they 
     cannot accomplish jack-diddelly without the "advice AND consent" of 
     most of the Peers/Officers of the group. Do NOT EVER forget, however, 
     that in many things the KING'S WORD IS LAW, subject to Corpora and the 
     BoD, and, in certain  instances, to Kingdom Law. 
     All of the above applies equally as well to Principalities, and 
     Baronies. As a sitting Baron, I can no more violate Corpora, or 
     Kingdom Law, than the Prince or King can, and to violate Customary 
     Law.....well, that would put me in more hot water than I'd care to 
     think about, not with the Powers-that-be, but with the 
     People......and, as any Poly-Sci major will tell you, in ANY system, 
     political power ultimately derives from the consent of the governed. 
     If the populace doesn't like what's being done, they can choose to:
                a) not participate (strike),           b) or leave 
     altogether (emigrate),           c) or turn and bite those in power 
     right where              it will do the most good (revolution).
     Factionalisim in the SCA is simply a function of one of the above 
     three, as NO person in power can please everybody's personal 
     interests. The point that factionalisim becomes destructive is when 
     the factions: 
               a) want power for the sake of power, or          b) put 
     personal interests above those of the SCA as a whole.
     Usually what happens in the above two situations is that the 
     factionalists find that the three responses of the populace happen 
     REAL fast, and they either throw the b******s out, or simply don't 
     co-operate, and organize yet another faction, and plot 
     revolution........the beat goes on! 
     One thing that is IMPORTANT to remember is that SCA politics should 
     NEVER be "personal." If you can't remain mundane friends with your SCA 
     political opponent, then GET OUT of the game, because the Dream will 
     quickly change into a Nightmare! If you cannot deal chivalrously and 
     honourably with your opponent, then you have missed the whole point of 
     the Society.....if we can bash our friends to powder on the fighting 
     field, or skewer them, in the case of Rapier, and then party all night 
     with them afterwards, it is not unreasonable to expect the same from 
     the "political" side. 
     It is most emphatically NOT a question of "us" against "them," but 
     rather "us" having a family argument. Admittedly, as any uniformed 
     police officer can tell you, a family argument is one of the worst 
     situations to be in, as it tends to get bitter very quickly, BUT: as 
     long as we remember that we ARE a family, of 
     sorts, then perhaps we can get past the bitterness and into the 
     REALITY of the definition of "politics," which is "the art of the 
     possible." There is always room for the other guy's opinions, and 
     those opinions DO have value.   Perhaps when we listen to each other, 
     rather than yelling at each other, we can arrive at a synthesis of 
     values and objectives, and thus advance to the goal of "the greatest 
     good for the greatest number." That last buzzphrase should be the 
     operative aim of ANY SCA politics. 
     The Power Structure of any SCA chapter (Barony, Principality, Kingdom 
     &c) is very interesting, as it is much like any other Club. The three 
     MOST POWERFUL persons in any Branch do NOT include the Crowned heads, 
     altho if these Crowned Heads have a great deal of charisma/mana, then 
     they must be included in the equation....but if they are merely 
     figureheads or thronewarmers, then the following applies exclusively: 
            1) The Seneshal: legal agent of the group. Without the          
      approval of this Officer, the Group STOPS.       2) The Reeve: 
     handles the money. Without the approval of          this Officer, 
     NOTHING can be done.       3) The Chronicler: without publicity, who 
     knows what's          going on? With carefully contrived ADVERSE PR, 
     opinion          can be molded in the Group. With carefully written 
     POSITIVE          PR, the same, only constructively.
     It follows, therefore, that if a faction gets control of these three 
     Offices, then they have effective control over a Group. It is advised 
     that NO faction make that mistake.....yes, I said MISTAKE....because 
     one of the long term results of such a thing is stagnation of the 
     Group....inbreeding of ideas, and eventual dissolution of the SCA 
     chapter due to lack of interest. Oh, sure, in the short term there's a 
     great deal that gets done, but in the long term the "new blood" tends 
     to get frozen out of effective participation, and thus.....stagnation. 
     At this point the Three Choices happen in the midst of hate, personal 
     vendettas, and much incredible unpleasantness. 
     This is where the Baron/ess, Prince/ess and/or King and Queen come in, 
     as do the superior Officers up the chain-of-command of the above three 
     named Power Figures. It is the RESPONSIBILITY of the Crowned Heads to 
     be ABOVE as much factionalisim as possible, within their sphere of 
     influence, and to make sure that no single faction is in control of a 
     whole group. These Crowned Heads should be VERY careful not to become 
     the nucleus of a faction unto themselves, however, as this tends to 
     become less of leadership of the whole group and more like 
     masturbation. Without input from "outsiders," you tend to get 
     complacent....and the Group goes down the tubes. The 
     Corporate/Kingdom/ Principality level Officers should be aware of who 
     is who and what's what, to help prevent a factional takeover. 
     A very common error on the part of Crowned Heads is to take their 
     "throne toadies" seriously. These kinds of folks are usually 
     ineffectual losers who are attracted by the trappings of power, 
     BUT...when they actually get their hands on it, they inevitably screw 
     things up to an awful mess. The more independent minded curmudgeonly 
     type, that doesn't "suck up," tends to be a much better choice for 
     Offices, as they have the capacity to make decisions and act on them 
     in an intelligent manner. They tend to be abrasive, but good, hard 
     workers who are VALUBLE to the group. 
     Another observation....in the SCA we have both kinds of "feudal" 
     relationships: the old feudal, based on personal honour, land tenure 
     (membership in a household or Barony), mutual interdependence, 
     personal loyalties, and a clear sense of "where you belong," AND we 
     have the later form, called "bastard feudalisim" by some writers, 
     which is based almost exclusively on "what's in it for me?"  Usually 
     those who organize their political base on the second pattern find 
     that as their people get what they want, they tend to gravitate 
     towards whoever else gives them what they want next.....and they 
     usually end up wanting what their initial Lord/Lady have, and have no 
     compunction about taking it away from them. This works in reverse, 
     too, as there are people who simply think in the second pattern as a 
     matter of course,and thus, while a Lord or Lady may think that their 
     people are basing on the first pattern, they are actually grounded in 
     the second.  This can wind up to be a very dangerous situation indeed. 
     Those that base on the first, however, tend to be quite happy with 
     what they happen to get, and, while they may move away from as close 
     an affilliation with their initial Lord/Lady, the bonds always remain, 
     tight and darn near unbreakable...on both sides. 
     It would behoove all to remember that this is how the usual "Good Old 
     Boys" SCA networks usually operate, if they are healthy.
     Which leads into a discussion on these bonds: NEVER forget that they 
     work both ways. If you are a Lord/Lady of a Household, or Baron/ess of 
     a Barony, or Prince/ess or King/Queen, then YOU have responsibilities 
     to your people, too! If you flagrantly disregard these 
     responsibilities; if you regard your people as just "nothings," 
     "nobodies," "spodes," "plebes," and such, then you will find that your 
     people will ignore you....a LOT, or even work against you. THIS IS 
     THEIR RIGHT! If you violate the Feudal Contract, then don't expect the 
     other party(s) to fulfill it either. If you treat people like dirt, 
     then expect the favor to be returned.....with interest! People tend to 
     have LONG memories about such things in the SCA; feuds like this tend 
     to last a long time. 
     The Household is the place to begin with the job of preventing or 
     minimizing factionalisim. I offer the solution that I discovered in my 
     own House as one means of doing so: 
     "Any member of the Confederation of Locksley Households is free to act 
     as they see fit in SCA politics. The Confederation will NOT back you, 
     as a group."
     "Any member of the Confederation may hold any Office in the SCA, from 
     King/Queen on down, or even sit the BoD, but they will do it in their 
     private persona and NOT as a member of the Confederation."
     This helps to prevent someone from using the House as a power-base, 
     unless they can convince each and every member thereof of the validity 
     and goodness of their position.....and if they can do THAT with my 
     bunch of independent minded cusses, then they MUST HAVE SOMETHING! 
     Beware of setting your group up for eventual failure, however. Three 
     common mistakes are: 
     1) A limited outlookIf all your group does is fight, or Arts, or 
     SF/Fantasy discussions or single-culture stuff, &c, then you will 
     limit your interest to the "new blood"....and stagnate and die.
     Solution: Encourage EVERYTHING!
     2) Too much charisma/mana and too much Power residing in the 
     Leader.The "Fuhrer-Prinzip" (Leader Principle) didn't work for Nazi 
     Germany, or Stalinist Russia, and it sure as Hades won't work in the 
     SCA! If the Leader is incapacitated, or loses interest, or faces a 
     Palace Revolution, then the Group falls apart!
     Solution: Have a Chain-of-Authority, and use it! Delegate Power as 
     much as possible...give your subordinates as much personal 
     responsibility as possible, and LET THEM MAKE THEIR OWN MISTAKES! They 
     will learn very quickly, or die.
     3) Don't believe your own Publicity!A VERY large Household gave a lot 
     of PR time to the idea that they were NOT part of the "chivalry" of 
     the Kingdom, and were the "enemy." When, in the fullness of time, 
     their members wound up getting knighted, or other Peerages, the 
     contradictions inherent in the situation tore the group apart, and the 
     leaving of their
     Leader, who had set himself up with number 2 above, also, darn near 
     destroyed the Group. Solution: Keep your sense of perspective, and 
     humor. This is, after all, a game of "let's pretend."
     I hope that this provides a bit of an insight into the subject...it 
     grew a bit from the initial BBS message, but.....such things happen, I 
     One last thing: NEVER make a promise that you can't keep....and NEVER 
     make a threat. Both will make you permanent enemies.....and remember 
     what Yasser Arafat said: "Choose your friends carefully. Your enemies 
     will choose you." 

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